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Letter of the Bishops 
• of Belgium 

to the 

Bishops of Germany 
Bavaria and Austria- Hungary 

THE NATION PRESS, Inc.. 20 Vesey Street, New York 




/ \ 

\ / 


Letter of the Bishops 
of Belgium 

to the 

Bishops of Germany 
Bavaria and Austria-Hungary 

Copyrieht, 1916, by 
The NewiYork Evetiine Post Co. 


A Committee of French Catholics pubHshed "La Guerre Allemande 
et le Cathohcisme." A German Committee pubhshed an answer: "Der 
Deutsche Krieg under der Katholizismus. Deutsche Abwehr Franzo- 
sischer Angriffe." 

A Committee of "German-American CathoHcs" saw fit to send an 
EngHsh translation of the German reply to all the Catholic clergymen 
of the United States, giving as their reason for so doing "the old juridical 
principle: Audiatur et altera pars." Whilst the answer of the German 
Catholics is presented as a reply to the French Catholics, the main parts 
of it are attacks against Belgium. For that reason it is only proper that 
the Belgian side also be heard. 

The French Committee has several Cardinals, Archbishops and Bish- 
ops among its members. The German Committee decided not to solicit 
the membership of German Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops because 
"purely political aims and polemics regarding Catholicism and the World 
War are irreconcilable with the dignity and tasks of the episcopal pas- 
torate." The Belgian Bishops personally and under their own exclusive 
responsibility took up the defense of their country and gave their reasons 
for so doing. Whilst they emphatically deny the charges brought against 
Belgium they demand a fair and impartial investigation. In the letter 
of the Belgian Bishops you, as well as all who have read it, will admire 
their manly courage in denouncing injustice, their calm protestation of 
innocence and their logical and eloquent demand for a fair investigation 
and adequate reparation. 

The Belgian Bishops, writing in Belgium, under German rule, were 
not in possession of all the documents published in Germany. Neither 
did they know all that happened in Germany. They ignored the senti- 
ment which ran very high among German Catholics on account of the 
accusations against Belgian priests and religious. The latter were con- 
stantly accused in Germany of having excited the civil population and 
even of having led the snipers and set them the example. German Cath- 
olics decided to investigate these charges against the Belgian clergy. 
Among several others, one of their organizations, the "Pax-Informa- 
tionen" of Munich, which is directed by German priests, made investiga- 
tions with the assistance of the German military authorities. The result 
of these investigations appeared in several Catholic German papers, 
among others in the "Koelnische Volkszeitung" of Cologne, of Septem- 
ber 20. October 2 and 28, November 10 and 27, December 31, 
1914. These investigacions show that the accusations against the 
Belgian clergy published by the German press and contained in 
a proclamation of the Kaiser posted in Belgium in September, 1914, 
as well as in the Kaiser's telegram to the President of the United States, 
were made without any foundation, according to formal declarations of 
German military authorities and German Doctors and were solemnly 
retracted under oath by the very soldiers who had pretended to have 
been witnesses of them and had taken part in bloody reprisals against 
Belgian priests. A German Jesuit, Father B. Duhr, one of the directors 
of the "Pax-Informationen," and whose name is of great authority in 

Germany, shows in his book, printed by Manz at Munich, 1915, that 
these investigations concluded in favor of the Belgian clergy. 

Catholic Belgium has always given abundant proof of its sincere 
devotion to the Holy Father, who in turn has never ceased to manifest 
his love for Belgium. At this very moment the Delegate Apostolic at 
Washington, Archbishop Bonzano, in the name of the Holy Father, 
addresses an appeal to the American Bishops in favor of those who 
have suffered most in the present war, especially the Belgians, the Poles 
and the Ruthenians. In this appeal a special homage is rendered to 
Belgium as follows : 

"All these have deserved well of the Church in the past; for all have 
kept the faith in spite of many persecutions leveled against them. Belgium 
especially has rendered splendid service to the cause of religion both by 
its generosity towards all the good works carried on by the Church, such 
as the Propagation of the Faith, and also by its renowned educational 
Institutions, so useful even to the clergy of this country. For these 
reasons that little nation is particularly dear to the heart of the Vicar 
of Christ. 

"You know how it would please the Holy Father to be able to assist 
them in this their hour of dire distress, and how grateful it would be to 
them to receive help from the Representative of Christ." 

Rt. Rev. Gust AVE Depreitere, V.G., Enid, Okla. 
Rt. Rev. P. J. Stockman, Hollywood, Cal. 
Very Rev. J. B. Bogaerts, New Orleans, La. 
Very Rev. A. M. Urban de Hasque, D.D., Oklahoma 

City, Okla. 
Very Rev. Remy Lafort, D.D., Peekskill, N. Y. 
Rev. J. J. Burrick, Troy, N. Y. 
Rev. M. JoDOCY, Marquette, Mich. 
Rev. Hy Mussely, New Bedford, Mass. 
Rev. A. A. Notebaert, Rochester, N. Y. 
Rev. O. A. Nys, New York City, N. Y. 
Rev. C. Stevens, Ticonderoga, N. Y. 
Rev. J. F. Stillemans, New York City, N. Y. 
Rev. C. Van der Donckt, Pocatello, Idaho, 

Letters of the Bishop of Belgium to the Bishops 
of Germany, Bavaria and Austria-Hungary. 

November the 24th, 1915. 

To Their Eminences the Cardinals and Their Lordships the Bishops of 
Germany, Bavaria and Austria-Hungary : 

As Cathohc Bishops, you, the Bishops of Germany on the one hand 
and we, the Bishops of Belgium, France, and England on the other, have 
been giving for a year an unsettling example to the world. 

Scarcely had the German armies trodden the soil of our country than 
the rumor was spread among you that our civil population was taking part 
in military operations ; that the women of Vise and Liege were putting out 
your soldiers' eyes ; that the populace in Antwerp and Brussels had sacked 
the property of expelled Germans. 


In the first days of August (1914) Dom Ildefonds Herwegen, abbot 
of Maria Laach, sent to the Cardinal Archbishop of Malines a telegram 
in which he begged him, for the love of God, to protect German soldiers 
against the tortures which our countrymen were supposed to be inflict- 
ing on them. 

Now it was notorious that our Government had taken useful measures 
so that every citizen might be instructed in the laws of war; in each 
commune, the arms of the inhabitants had to be deposited in the com- 
munal house; by posters, the population was warned that only citizens 
regularly enrolled under the flag were authorized to bear arms ; and the 
clergy, anxious to aid the state in its mission, had spread, by word of 
mouth, by parish bulletins, by posters on church doors, the instructions 
given by its Government. 

We were accustomed for a century to the rule of peace, and we had 
no idea that any one, in good faith, could attribute to us violent instincts. 
We were strong in our right and in the sincerity of our peaceful inten- 
tions ; and we answered calumnies about "free shooters" and "eyes put 
out" with a shrug of the shoulders, since we were persuaded that the 
truth would be known, without delay, of itself. 

The clergy and episcopate of Belgium had personal relations with 
numerous priests, members of religious communities, and bishops of 
Germany and Austria; the Eucharistic Congresses of 1909 at Cologne 
and 1912 at Vienna had given them the opportunity of nearer acquaint- 
ance and mutual appreciation. So we felt assured that Catholics of the 
nations at war with our own would not judge us lightly; and, without 
troubling himself much about the contents of Dom Ildefonds's telegram, 
the Cardinal of Malines limited his reply to an invitation to preach 
gentleness together with us — for, he added, "we are told that German 
troops are shooting innocent Belgian priests." 

From the very first days of August crimes had been committed, at 
Battice, Vise, Berneau, Herve, and elsewhere, but we were hoping that 
they would remain isolated deeds, and, knowing the very high relations 

which Dom Ildefonds had, we put great confidence in the following dec- 
laration which he sent us on the 11th of August: 

I am informed, at first hand, that formal orders have been given to German 
soldiers by the military authorities to spare the innocent. As to the very deplorable 
fact that even priests have lost their lives, I allow myself to bring to your 
Eminence's attention that, within these last days, the dress of priests and monks has 
become the object of suspicions and scandal, since French spies have used the 
ecclesiastical costume, and even that of religious communities, to disguise their 
hostile intentions. 

Meanwhile, the acts of hostility toward innocent populations went on. 

On the 18th of August, 1914, the Bishop of Liege wrote to the Com- 
manding Officer, Major Bayer, Governor of the city of Liege: 

One after the other, several villages have been destroyed ; notable persons, 
among whom were parish priests, have been shot ; others have been arrested, and 
all have protested their innocence. I know the priests of my diocese; I cannot 
believe that a single one of them would have made himself guilty of acts of 
hostility toward the German soldiers. I have visited several ambulances, and I 
have seen German soldiers cared for in them with the same zeal as Belgians. This 
they themselves acknowledge. 

[The entire text of the letter of the Bishop of Liege is appended hereto 
(Annex 1). His protest was renewed on the 21st of August to Gen. 
Kolewe, who had become Military Governor of Liege; and again, on the 
29th of August, to His Excellency Baron von der Goltz, Governor- 
General of the occupied provinces of Belgium, who was lodging at that 
time in the Bishop's palace at Liege.] 

This letter remained unanswered. 

In the beginning of September, the Emperor of Germany covered with 
his authority the calumnious accusations of which our innocent popula- 
tions were the object. He sent to Mr. Wilson, President of the United 
States, this telegram, which, so far as we know, has not hitherto been 
retracted : 

The Belgian Government has publicly encouraged the civil population to take 
part in this war, which it had been preparing carefully for a long time. The 
cruelties committed during the course of this guerrilla war, by women and even 
by priests, on doctors and nurses have been such that my generals have finally been 
obhged to have recourse to the mos*- rigorous methods to chastise the guilty and to 
prevent the sanguinar}^ population continuing its abominable criminal and odious 
deeds. Several villages and even the city of Louvain have had to be demolished 
(excepting the very beautiful H6tel-de-Ville) in the interest of our defence, and 
for the protection of my troops. My heart bleeds when I see that such measures 
have been made inevitable and when I think of the numberless innocent people who 
have lost home and goods as a consequence of those criminal deeds. 

This telegram was posted up in Belgium, by order of the German 
Government, on the 11th of September. The very next day, 12th of 
September, the Bishop of Namur demanded to be received by the Mili- 
tary Governor of Namur, and protested against the reputation which his 
Majesty the Emperor sought to give to the Belgian clergy; he affirmed 
the innocence of all the members of the clergy who had been shot or 
maltreated, and declared that he was ready himself to publish any 
culpable deeds which might be proved. 

The offer of the Bishop of Namur was not accepted, and no answer 
was made to his protest. 


Thus calumny was able to pursue its course freely. The German press 
encouraged it. The organ of the Catholic Centre rivalled the Lutheran 
press ; and the day when thousands of our fellow countrymen, ecclesias- 
tics and laymen, of Vise, Aerschot, Wessemael, Herent, Louvain, and 
numerous other places, all as innocent of acts of war or cruelty as you 
and we, were taken off as prisoners and passed through the railway sta- 
tions of Aix-la-Chapelle and Cologne, and, for mortal hours, were given 
over as a show to the unwholesome curiosity of the Rhenish metropolis, 
they had the grief to know that their Catholic brethren vomited over 
them just as many insults as did the Lutherans of Celle, Soltau, or 

Not one voice was lifted up in Germany to take the defence of the 

The legend which was transforming innocent into guilty persons and 
crime into an act of justice thus became accredited, and on May 10, 1915, 
the "White Book" — an official organ of the German Empire — dared to 
adopt it on its own account, and to circulate in neutral countries these 
odious and cowardly falsehoods: 

There is no doubt that German wounded have been stripped and put to death, 
yes, and frightfully mutilated by the Belgian population, and that even women and 
young girls have taken part in such abominations. Wounded soldiers have had 
their eyes put out, their ears, nose, fingers, and sexual organs cut off, or their 
bowels opened ; in other cases, German soldiers have been poisoned, hanged to 
trees, have had boiling liquid poured over them, and been sometimes burned, so 
that they have endured death in atrocious pain. Such bestial proceedings of the 
population not only violate obligations expressly formulated by the Geneva Con- 
vention concerning the attention and care due to the wounded of an enemy army, 
but they are contrary to the fundamental principles of the laws of war and hu- 

Put yourselves for a moment in our place, dear brethren in the faith 
and priesthood. 

We knozv that these shameless accusations of the Imperial Govern- 
ment are, from one end to the other, calumnies — we know it and we 
swear it. 

Now, your Government, to justify these calumnies, invokes testimony 
that has not been verified by any contradictory examination whatever. 

Is it not your duty, not only in charity, but in strict justice, to enlighten 
yourselves, to enlighten the faithful of your flocks, and to furnish us 
with the occasion to establish judicially our innocence? 

You owed us this satisfaction in the name of Catholic charity which 
dominates national conflicts. You owe it to us — to-day — in strict justice, 
because a committee, covered by at least your tacit approbation, and com- 
posed of all that is most distinguished in politics and science and religion 
in Germany, has undertaken the patronage of the official accusations 
and confided to the pen of a Catholic priest. Prof. A. J. Rosenberg, of 
Paderborn, the task of condensing them in a book entitled, "The Lying 
Accusations of French Catholics against Germany," and has thus put 
on the back of Catholic Germany the responsibility of the active and 
public propagation of the calumny against the Belgian people. 


When the French book, to which German Catholics oppose their own, 
saw the Hght, their Eminences Cardinal von Hartmann, archbishop of 
Cologne, and Cardinal von Bettinger, archbishop of Munich, felt it neces- 
sary to address to their Emperor a telegram in these words : 

Revolting at the defamation of the German Fatherland and its glorious army 
contained in the book, "The German War and Catholicism," we have the heartfelt 
need of expressing our sorrowful indignation to your Majesty in the name of the 
whole German episcopate. We shall not fail to lift up our complaint even to the 
supreme head of the Church. 


Very well. Most Reverend Eminences, Venerated Colleagues of the 
German episcopate, in our turn, we archbishops and bishops of Belgium 
— revolting at the calumnies against our Belgian country and its glorious 
army, which are contained in the White Book of the Empire and repro- 
duced in the German Catholics' answer to the work published by French 
Catholics — we feel the need of expressing to our King, to our Govern- 
ment, to our army, to our country, our sorrowful indignation. 

And that our protest may not run counter to yours, without useful 
effect, we ask you to be willing to aid us to institute a tribunal of inquiry 
with evidence and counter-evidence. In the name of your officiality, you 
will appoint as many members as you desire, and as it pleases you to 
choose; we will appoint as many more, three for example, on each side. 
And we will ask together that the episcopate of a neutral state — Holland, 
Spain, Switzerland, or the United States — appoint for us a "superarbiter" 
who will preside at the operations of the tribunal. 

You have taken your complaints to the Sovereign Head of the Church. 

It is not just that he should hear only your voice. 

You will have the loyalty to aid us to make our voice heard also. 

We have — you and we — an identical duty, to put before His Holiness 
tried documents on which he may be able to base his judgment. 



You are not ignorant of the efforts we have made, one after another, 
to obtain from the Power which occupies Belgium the constitution of a 
tribunal of investigation. 

The Cardinal of Malines, on two occasions, in writing — January 24, 
1915, and February 10, 1915, and the Bishop of Namur, by a letter 
addressed to the Military Governor of his province, April 12, 1915, both 
solicited the formation of a tribunal to be composed of German and 
Belgian arbiters in equal number and to be presided over by a delegate 
from a neutral state. 

Our efforts met with an obstinate refusal. 

Yet the German authority was desirous to institute investigations. 
But it wished them to be one-sided — that is, without any judicial value. 

After it had refused the investigation demanded by the Cardinal of 
Malines, the German authorities went into different localities where 
priests had been shot and peaceful citizens massacred or made prisoners, 
and there — on the depositions of a few witnesses taken haphazard or 
selected discreetly, sometimes in presence of a local authority who was 


ignorant of the German language and thus found himself forced to 
accept and sign blindly the minutes made — it believed itself authorized 
to come to conclusions which were afterwards to be presented to the 
public as results of cross-examination. 

The German investigation was carried out, in November, 1914, at 
Louvain, in such conditions. It is therefore devoid of any authority. 

So it is natural that we should turn to you. 

The Court of Arbitration, which the Power occupying our country 
has refused us, you will grant us — and you will obtain from your Govern- 
ment the public declaration that witnesses can be cited by you and by 
us to tell all they know, without having to dread reprisals. Before you, 
under cover of your moral authority, they will feel themselves more 
secure and be encouraged to bear witness to what they have seen and 
heard; the world will have faith in the episcopate of our two nations 
united; our common control will give authenticity to the witness borne 
and will guarantee the fidelity of the report. The investigation thus 
carried out will be believed. 


We demand this investigation, Eminences and Venerated colleagues, 
before all else, to avenge the honor of the Belgian people. Calumnies put 
forth by your people and its highest representatives have violated it. And 
you know as well as we the adage of human. Christian, Catholic moral 
theology: "Without restitution, no pardon" — Non remittitur pectatum, 
nisi restituatur ablatum. 

Your people, by the organ of its political powers and of its highest 
moral authorities, has accused our fellow-citizens of giving themselves 
up to atrocities and horrors on wounded German soldiers, and particulars 
are given, as above cited, by the White Book and the German Catholics' 
manifesto. To all such accusations we oppose a formal denial — and we 
demand to give the proofs of the truth of our denial. 

On the other hand, to justify the atrocities committed in Belgium by 
the German army, the political power, by the very title it gave its White 
Book — "Die Volkerrechtwidrige Fiihring des Belgischen Volkskriegs" 
("The violation of the law of nations by the war proceedings of the 
Belgian people") — and the hundred Catholics who signed the book — 
"The German War and Catholicism : German Answer to French Attacks" 
— assert that the German army found itself in Belgium in the case of 
legitimate defence against a treacherous organization of free-shooters. 

M^e affirm that there was nowhere in Belgium any organization of 
free-shooters — and ive demand, in the name of our National honor, which 
has been calumniated, the right to give proofs of the truth of our 

You will call whom you choose before the tribunal of cross-investiga- 
tion. We shall invite to appear there all the priests of parishes where 
civilians, priests, members of religious communities, or laymen were 
massacred or threatened with death to the cry — Man hat geschossen 
("Someone has been shooting") — we shall ask all these priests to sign, 
if you wish it, their testimony under oath and then — under penalty of 
pretending that the whole Belgian clergy is perjured, you will have td 

accept and the civilized world will not he able to refuse the conclusions 
of this solemn and decisive investigation. 

But we add, Eminences and Venerated Colleagues, that you have the 
same interest as ourselves in this constitution of a tribunal of honor. 

For, relying on our direct experience, we know — and we affirm that 
the German army gave itself up in Belgium, in a hundred different places, 
to pillage and incendiarism, to imprisoning and massacres and sacrileges 
contrary to all justice and to all sentiment of humanity. 

This we affirm, in particular, for the communes whose names figure 
in our Pastoral letters, and in the two Notes addressed by the Bishops of 
Namur and Liege (respectively on the 31st of October and the 1st of 
November, 1915), to his Holiness Benedict XV, to his Excellency the 
Nuncio of Brussels, and to the Ministers or representatives of neutral 
countries at Brussels. 

Fifty innocent priests, thousands of innocent faithful, were put to 
death ; hundreds of others, whose lives have been preserved by circum- 
stances independent of their persecutors' will, were put in danger of 
death; thousands of innocent people were made prisoners without trial, 
many of them underwent months of detention, and, when they were 
released, the rnost minute questionings to which they had been subjected 
liad brought out against them no evidence of guilt. 

These crimes cry to heaven for vengeance. 

If, when we formulate these denunciations, we calumniate the German 
army; or if the military authority had just reasons to order or permit 
these acts, which we call criminal, it belongs to the honor and to the 
national interest of Germany to confound us. Just so long as German 
justice tries to escape, we keep the right and the duty to denounce what, 
;n conscience, we consider a grave violation of justice and of our honor. 


The Chancellor of the German Empire, in the Reichstag session of 
the 4th of August, declared that the invasion of Luxemburg and Belgium 
was "in contradiction with the prescriptions of the right of nations"; he 
recognized that, "by passing over the justified protests of the Govern- 
ments of Luxemburg and Belgium, he was committing an injustice which 
he promised to repair" ; and the Sovereign Pontiff, intentionally alluding 
to Belgium — as he deigned to cause his Eminence Cardinal Gasparri, 
Secretary of State, to write to M. Van den Heuvel, Belgian Minister — 
pronounced in his Consistorial Allocution of January 22, 1915, this irre- 
formable judgment: "It belongs to the Roman Pontiff, whom God has 
established as a supreme interpreter and avenger of the eternal law, to 
proclaim, before all else, that none may, for any reason zvhatsoever, 
violate justice." 

Yet, since that time, politicians and casuists seek to dodge or enfeeble 
those decisive words. In their reply to French Catholics, German Catho- 
lics engage themselves in like mean subtleties and would feign corroborate 
them by a fact. They have at their disposition two witnesses : one — who 
Is anonymous — saw, so he says, on the 26th of July, French officers in 
conversation with Belgian officers in the Boulevard Anspach at Brussels ; 
the other, a certain Gustave Lochard, of Rimogue, deposes that "two 
regiments of French dragoons, the Twenty-eighth and the Thirtieth, and 


one battery crossed the Belgian frontier on the 31st of July, 1914, and 
remained exclusively on Belgian territory during all the following week." 
Now, the Belgian Government affirms that, "before the declaration of 
war, no French troop, no matter how small, had entered Belgium," And 
:t adds: "There is no honest witness who can rise up against this 

The Government of our King, therefore, accuses German Catholics 
of asserting an error. 

Here is a question of prime importance, both political and moral, on 
which we ought to enlighten the public conscience. 

If, however, you should refuse to examine this general question, we 
ask you at least to check off the witness on which German Catholics have 
relied to decide the question against us. The deposition of this Gustave 
Lochard touches facts easy to verify. German Catholics will wish to 
free themselves from the reproach of error and will make it a duty of 
conscience to retract the error if they have let themselves be deceived to 
our injury. 


We are not ignorant that you have a repugnance to believe that 
regiments of whom, you say, you know the discipline, the honor, the 
religious faith, could have given themselves up to the inhuman acts with 
which we reproach them. Yoii ivish to persuade yourselves that it is not 
so, because it cannot be so. 

And, forced by evidence, we answer you — it can be so, because it is so. 

In face of the fact, no presumption holds. 

For you, as for us, there is but one issue — the verification of the fact 
by a commission whose impartiality is and appears to all to be beyond 

We have no difficulty in understanding your state of mind. 

We, too, respect, believe us, the spirit of discipline and labor and faith 
of which we have so often had proofs and gathered testimony among 
your fellow countrymen. Very numerous are those Belgians now who 
bitterly confess their deception. But they have lived through the sinister 
events of August and September. The truth has triumphed over all 
interior resistance. The fact can no longer be denied — Belgium has been 
made a martyr. 

When foreigners of neutral countries — Americans, Hollanders, Swiss, 
Spanish — ask us of the way in which the German war has been carried 
on, and wish us to narrate certain scenes whose horror, in spite of our- 
selves, we have verified, we soften the impression, feeling how far the 
naked truth passes limits of probability. 

Nevertheless, when you have been placed in the presence of the entire 
reality, when you have been able to analyze the causes, some distant, 
others immediate, of what one of your generals — before the ruins of the 
little village of Schaffenlez-Diest, and before the martyred parish priest — 
called "a tragic error" ; when you hear the influences which your soldiers 
underwent at the moment of their entry into Belgium and in the intoxi- 
cation of their first successes, the unlikelihood of the truth will appear 
to you, as to us, less disconcerting. 



Most of all, Eminences and Venerated Colleagues, let not yourselves 
be held back by the vain pretext that an investigation v^rould be now 

We might say so, indeed, because at the present hour the investigation 
would have to be made in circumstances unfavorable to ourselves. Our 
populations, in fact, have been so profoundly terrorized, and the prospect 
of reprisals is still so sombre for them, that the witnesses we may call 
before a tribunal which would be German in part would scarcely dare to 
tell the truth to the end. 

But decisive reasons are opposed to all dilatory procedure. 

The first, that which will go straight to your hearts, is the fact that 
we are the weak and you the powerful. You would not wish to abuse 
of your strength against us. 

Public opinion usually goes to him who first possesses himself of it. 

Now, whereas you have all liberty to flood neutral countries with your 
publications, we are imprisoned and reduced to silence. Hardly are we 
permitted to lift up our voices inside our churches; the preaching in them 
is under control, that is, parodied by paid spies; protestations of conscience 
are qualified as revolts against public authorities ; what we write is stopped 
at the frontier as contraband. So you alone enjoy freedom of speech, and 
of the pen, and if you will, in a spirit of charity and equity, procure a 
particle of it for Belgians who are accused and give them a chance to 
defend themselves, it is for you to come to their protection as soon as 
possible. The old law adage — Audiatur et altera pars ("Let the other side 
be heard") — is posted up, they tell us, at the doors of many German 
courts of law. In any case, for you as for us, it is law for the judgments of 
episcopal officialities, and doubtless, too, with you as with us, it circulates 
in the people's speech under this figure — "Who hears but one bell hears 
but one sound." 

You will say, perhaps: "That is the past; forget it. Instead of casting 
oil on the fire, try rather to pardon and join your efforts with those of 
the Power occupying your territory — for it only asks to heal the wounds 
of the unhappy Belgian people." 


Oh, Eminences and dear colleagues, add not irony to injustice. 

Have not we sufifered enough ? Have we not been — are we not still — 
tortured cruelly enough? 

It is the past; resign yourselves — forget. 

The past! But all the wounds are still bleeding! There is not an 
honest heart that is not swollen with indignation. While we hear our 
own Government saying to the face of the world, "That one is twice guilty 
who, after violating another's rights, tries still, audaciously and cynically, 
to justify himself by imputing to his victim faults which he had never 
committed," our own people can only by doing violence to themselves stifle 
words of malediction. But yesterday a peasant in the neighborhood of 
Malines learned that his son had fallen on the field of battle. A priest 
consoled him. And the brave man answered : "Oh, for this one, I gave 
him to our country. But they took my eldest son, the cowards, and shot 
him down in a ditch !" 


How do you wish us to obtain from such unfortunates, who have been 
made to know every torture, a sincere word of resignation and forgive- 
ness, so long as those who have made them suffer refuse them one word 
of acknowledgment or repentance or promise of reparation? 

Germany will not give us back the blood she has made to flow and the 
innocent lives her armies have mowed down — but it is in her power to 
make restitution to the Belgian people of their honor, which she has 
violated or let be violated. 

This restitution we demand from you — from you who are the first and 
chief representatives of Christian morals in the church of Germany. 

There is something more profoundly sad than political divisions and 
material disaster — it is the hatred which injustice, real or presumed, heaps 
up in so many hearts made to love each other. As pastors of our peoples, 
does it not belong to us, is there not incumbent on us, the mission to make 
easy the dying away of evil feeling and to re-establish on the foundation 
so shaken now of justice, a union in charity of all children of the great 
Catholic family? 

The Power that occupies our territory says and writes, indeed, its 
intention of healing our wounds. 

But those who judge from man's exterior must judge the intention by 
the action. 



Now, all that we know — we poor Belgians who are undergoing for 
the passing time the Empire's domination — is that the power which 
engaged its honor to govern us according to international law as codified 
in the Hague Convention is not keeping faith with its engagement. 

We do not speak of individual abuses against citizens in particular, 
or against communes, abuses whose character can be established 
only by investigation from both sides after the war; we speak, here and 
now, only of acts of Government as they are made known by official 
documents emanating from Government and posted up on the walls of 
our cities and, consequently, engaging beyond all possible discussion the 
responsibility of Government. 

Now, the violations of the Hague Convention, ever since the date 
when our provinces were occupied, are numerous and flagrant. We 
classify them here under a few heads, and give in an appendix the proofs 
of our allegations. The following are the chief heads of violation : 

Collective punishments decreed on account of individual deeds, con- 
trary to article 50 of the Hague Convention. 

Forced labor for the enemy, contrary to article 52. 

New taxes, in violation of articles 48, 49, and 52. 

Abuses of requisitions in kind, violating article 52. 

Ignoring of laws in force in Belgium, contrary to article 43. 

These violations of international law, aggravating our unhappy lot 
and accumulating in hearts habitually peaceful and charitable the seeds 
of revolt and hatred, would not be carried on did not those who commit 
them feel themselves supported, if not by the positive approbation, at 
least by the complaisant silence of all those zvho form opinion in their 
own country. 


Confidently, then, we take up our appeal to your chanty ; we are the 
weak, you are the strong; come and judge if it is still allowable for you 
not to aid us. 


There are, moreover, for the constitution of a Commission of Inves- 
tigation by members of the Catholic episcopate, reasons of a general 

We have already insisted on the unsettling spectacle which our 
divisions are giving to the world — it is an occasion of scandal and awakens 
thoughts of blasphemy. 

Our populations do not understand how you can be ignorant of the 
double flagrant iniquity which has swooped down on Belgium — the 
violation of our neutrality and the inhuman conduct of your soldiers — 
and why, knowing it, you do not lift up your voices to condemn and to 
clear yourselves of siding with it. 

On the other hand, what ought to scandalize your own populations, 
Protestant and Catholic, is the role attributed by your press to the Belgian 
clergy and to a nation over which, for thirty years, a notoriously Catholic 
government has been presiding. "Beware," said the Bishop of Hildes- 
lieim to his clergy on the 21st of September, 1914, "these charges which 
the press is circulating against priests and monks and members of relig- 
ious communities of Catholic nations are digging a pit between Catholics 
and Protestants on German soil and the religious future of the Empire 
is put at stake." The campaign of calumnies against our clergy and our 
people has not slackened. Deputy of the Centre Erzberger seems to have 
taken for his part to foment it. Even in Belgium, in the Antwerp Cathe- 
dral on the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, one of your priests, Heinrich 
Mohr, dared to say from the chair of truth to the Catholic soldiers of your 
army: "Official documents have informed us how Belgians have hanged 
German soldiers to trees, have poured boiling liquids over them, have 
burned them alive." 

There is but one way to put a stop to these scandals, which is the 
bringing to the light of day the full truth, and the public condemnation, 
by the religious authority, of the truly guilty ones. 

For honest men, believers or unbelievers, another subject of scandal 
is the craze to put forward a calculation of the advantages and disadvan- 
tages which Catholic interests would have from the success either of the 
Triple Alliance or the Quadruple Entente. Professor Schrors, of the 
University of Bonn, was the first, so far as we know, to give up his 
leisure to such vexatious calculation. (Der Krieg und der Katholismus, 
von Dr. Heinrich Schrors, prof. d. Katholischen Theologie an der Uni- 
versitat in Bonn.) 

The religious results of the war are God's secret, and no one of us 
is in the Divine confidence. 

But there is a question which dominates all that — a question of morals, 
of right, and of honor, 

"Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God and His justice, and 
all these things shall be added unto you." 

Do your duty, no matter what may be the result. 



Therefore, we bishops, at the present hour, have a moral and, conse- 
quently, a religious duty which takes precedence of all others — to seek 
and to proclaim the truth. 

Christ, of whom it is our great honor to be at once the disciples and 
the ministers, has said — has He not? — that His social mission is to bear 
witness to the truth : "For this was I born, for this came I into the world; 
that I should give testimony to the truth." 

In the solemn days of our consecration as bishops, we promised God 
and the Catholic Church never to be deserters of the truth, not to give 
It up for ambition or fear when there should be question of proving that 
we love the. truth. 

We, therefore, by our vocation, have an ofiice and a ground of under- 
standing in common. Confusion reigns in minds ; what one calls light 
another calls darkness ; what is good to some is evil to others. The 
tribunal for the investigation of both sides, to which we have the honor 
of inviting your delegates, will help, such is the hope we nourish, to 
dissipate more than one doubt. 

With all the ardor of his will, our Holy Father the Pope makes an 
appeal for peace ; in the letter which he vouchsafed to address you at 
your last meeting in Fukla, he urged all of you to desire peace as he 
does. But he wishes it only when based on the respect of right and 
the dignity of peoples — quae jiistitiae sit opus et popiilonim congruat 

Therefore, it will be in answer to the will of our common father that 
we should work together to make to shine and to triumph the truth, on 
which must rest justice and the honor of nations, and, finally, peace. 

Receive, Eminences and Venerated Colleagues, the expression of our 
respectful and fraternal devotion. 

(Signed) D. J. Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of Malines. 
Anthony, Bishop of Ghent. 
GusTAVE, J., Bishop of Bruges. 
Thomas Louis, Bishop of Namur. 
Martin Hubert, Bishop of Liege. 
Amedee Crooy, appointed Bishop of Tournai. 




Dear Sir: 

I appeal to you as a man and as a Christian to put a stop to executions and 
reprisals. I am told repeatedly that several villages have been destroyed, that 
prominent people, among whom parish priests, have been shot and others arrested 
and all of whom have protested their innocence. Priests hke those of my diocese, 
I cannot believe would be guilty of a single act of hostility toward the German 
soldiers. I visited many ambulances and I saw that the wounded Germans were 
treated with the same care as the Belgians. They themselves recognized this fact. 
If the soldiers of the Belgian army, stationed at the outposts, fired upon the 
Germans as they entered Belgium, can this be imputed as a crime to the civil popu- 
lation? And even if. some civilians helped the soldiers to repulse the German 
scouts, is the entire population, the women, the children and the priests to be held 
responsible? But I do not wish to discuss that which has passed, I ask you only, 
in the name of humanity and in God's name, to prevent the reprisals on inoffensive 
inhabitants. These reprisals can have no beneficial results, but will only drive the 
people to desperation. 

I would be glad to discuss this matter with you, as I feel confident that you, like 
myself, wish to allay the evils of the war instead of aggravating them. 

At the last moment I learn that the Cure of R has been arrested and 

taken to Chartreuse. I do not know of what he is accused, but I know that he is 
incapable of committing an act of hostility toward your soldiers ; he is a good 
priest, gentle and charitable. I hold myself responsible for him and I beseech you 
to have him returned to his parish. 

Please accept, etc., 

(Signed) M. H. Rutten, Bishop of Liege. 

This letter remained unanswered, but the sanie protestations were 
renewed the 21st of August to General Kolowe, who had since been 
made Military Governor of Liege. 

The same protestations, vigorously expounded and strongly empha- 
sized, were renewed in an interview with the Governor-General of 
occupied Belgium, Mr. Von der Goltz-Pacha, then quartered at the 
episcopal palace with his staff officers, August 29. 


This annex contains : 

1st. A letter from His Eminence Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of 
Mechlin, to the Kreischef of Division of Mechlin, dated January 24, 1915. 

2nd. A communication from His Eminence the Cardinal of MechHn, 
transmitted to the General Government through the intermediary of 
Adjutant von Flemming, dated February 10, 1915. 

3rd. A letter from His Lordship the Bishop of Namur to the Mili- 
tary Governor of Namur, dated April 12, 1915. 

4th. A note relative to a partial investigation made by an Austrian 
priest, deputy of the "Wiener Priester Verein." 

5th. The correspondence of the Cardinal of Mechlin with His 
Excellency the German Governor General regarding abuses suffered 
by nuns. 

6th. In his Pastoral Letter of Christmas, 1914, the Cardinal of 
Mechlin published the names of the innocent priests who were put to 
death by the German troops. 


The Count of Wengersky, Kreischef of Division of Mechlin, wrote 
the following letter to the Cardinal on January 20th : 

Chief of the District of Mechlin, January 20, 1915. Tgb. No. 268/11. 
To His Eminence the Cardinal- Archbishop of Mechlin: 

According to the press, many innocent priests in the diocese of Mechlin were 

put to death. In order to institute an investigation, I beg Your Eminence to let me 

know if innocent priests of the diocese of Mechlin were killed, and who they were. 

I would like very much to know also under what conditions they were put to 

death, and by what troops and on what dates. 

Chief of District, 

(S.) Wengersky, Colonel. 

The Cardinal answered the Count von Wengersky as follows: 

Archbishopric of Mechlin, January 24, 1915. 
Dear Sir: 

I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letter 268/11, dated January 
20th, which you were kind enough to send me. 

The names of the priests and the religious of the diocese of Mechlin who, to 
my knowledge, were put to death by the German troops are as follows : Dupierreux 
of the Society of Jesus ; Brother Sebastian Allard, of the Congregation of the 
Josephites ; Brother Candide, of the Congregation of the Brothers of N. D. de 
Misericorde; Father Vincent of the Conventuals; Carette, professor; Lombaerts, 
Goris, De Clerck, Dergent, Wouters, Van Wouters, Van Bladel, rectors. 

On Christmas I still did not know for a certainty what the lot of the rector of 
Herent was. Since then his body has been found at Louvain and identified. Other 
figures cited in my Pastoral must to-day be increased : for instance for Aerschot I 
gave the number of victims as 91, while the number of bodies of the inhabitants 
of Aerschot exhumed, reached a few days ago the total of 143. But the moment 
has not come to dwell upon these particular cases. They will find place in the 
inquiry which you have given me reason to expect. 

It will be a consolation for me to see full light thrown on the events which I 
had to record in my Pastoral Letter and on others of the same nature. 

But it is essential that the results of this inquiry appear to all as being un- 
questionably authentic. 

To this end, I have the honor to propose to you. Monsieur le Comte, and to pro- 
pose by your kind intervention, to the German Authorities, that the Commission on 
Inquiry be composed of an equal number of German delegates and Belgian magis- 
trates to be named by our Magistracy, and to be presided over by a representative 
of a neutral country. I believe that His Excellency the Minister from the United 
States will not refuse to accept this presidency or to confide it to a delegate of his 

Accept, I beg of you, Monsieur le Kreischef, the assurance of my high con- 

(S.) D. J. Card. Mercier, Arch, of Mechlin. 
To the Count von Wengersky, Kreischef, Mechlin. 

This request remained unanswered. 

2. On February 10th, Adjutant von Flemming presented himself, 
in the name of the Kreischef, to the Archbishopric of Mechlin, regarding 
the renewing of the questionnaire to which the latter already answered 
in his letter of January 24th. The Cardinal pointed out to the Adjutant 
that questions of this nature should be formulated and answered in 
writing. Consequently he worded, in the following terms, the requests 
of the Kreischef and the answers they required, and the document was 
signed afterwards by the Adjutant and by the Cardinal of Mechlin. 


Adjutant von Flemming asks me in the name of the General Government: 
1. In which communes were priests shot? 


2. What troops put them to death and on what day? 

3. Does the Bishop of the diocese contend that these priests were innocent? 

1. The names of these communes have already been published in my pastoral 
letter of Christmas, 1914, on page 65. 

2. The German staff is in a position to know better than anybody else which 
troops occupied such and such a commune on such and such a date. The inhabitants 
readily recognize the German uniform, but cannot for the most part discern of 
which regiments the army is composed. 

3. My personal and substantiated conviction is that the priests whose names 
I cited were innocent; but in justice it is not for us to prove their innocence; it is 
the military authorities who treated them with such severity who should establish 
their guilt. 

The witnesses called to give testimony in the presence of a unilateral commis- 
sion, will for the most part, be afraid to tell the whole truth. The truth will not 
be fully known and will not universally force acceptance unless on condition that a 
mixed commission be formed to receive it and to guarantee its impartiality and its 

So 1 can only renew for the third time (1) my proposition to confide to a mixed 
commission, composed partly of Belgian magistrates, the task of throwing light on 
these facts regarding which the General Government has the happy inspiration to 
institute an inquiry. In order to give the desired authority to the results of the 
inquiry, it is necessary that the Court of Inquiry be presided over by a delegate of 
a neutral country. 

Made at Mechlin, the 10th of February, 1915. 
(S.) D. J. Card. Mercier, Arch, of Mechlin. 
(S.) voN Flemming, Ritmeister and Adjutant of the Krieschefs of Mechlin. 

*(1) The proposition was formulated a first time, in writing, Jan. 24th, and 
taken up again orally February 8th, by Mgr. Van Roey Vicar General, who was 
ordered to come to the Kommandantur of Mechlin. 

This request remained unanswered. 

3. On the occasion of the pubHcation of a confidential letter from 
the Cabinet of the Minister of War of Prussia to the Grand Chancellor, 
His Lordship the Bishop of Namur published, the 12th of April, 1915, 
an answer to this document. 

While the Military Governor of Namur contested — without speci- 
fying anything, however — the affirmations contained in the answer of 
the bishop, the latter maintained his affirmations and added : "On 
account of the difference of opinion which separates us, there remains 
only one way to make clear to everybody the facts in the case. That 
is to confide the investigation to a commission of inquiry which I pro- 
posed. I am confident that Your Excellency will join forces with me 
and will recommend the project to the Governor-General. 

(S) T. L., Bishop of Namur." 

The proposition of His Lordship the Bishop of Namur remained 

4. A priest accredited by H. E. Cardinal Piffi, Archbishop-Prince of 
Vienna, made an inquiry in Belgium in the name of "Wiener Priester 

The results of this partial inquiry were published in the "Tijd" of 
Amsterdam and in the "Politiken" of Copenhagen. They proved a 
crushing blow to the German military authorities. But if we are rightly 
informed, the German and Austrian newspapers omitted to bring this 
to the knowledge of their readers. 

5. Before bringing this annex relative to the inquiries to a close, we 
have to make a correction: 


In their answer to the French CathoHcs, the German Catholics speak 
of attacks on nuns, and write: "The German Governor-General in 
Belgium addressed himself on this subject to the Belgian Bishops. . . . 
The Archbishop of Mechlin made known that he could furnish no exact 
information on any case of violation of a nun in his diocese." 

This last sentence is materially correct, but would lead into error 
the inattentive reader. I wrote, in fact, to the Governor-General that 
I could not furnish any exact information, because my conscience forbade 
me to give to no matter what court the information, alas, very exact, 
which I possess. Attacks on nuns were made. Happily, I believe, not 
a great many, but there were several to my knowledge. 

Since the Governor-General deemed proper to give to the public an 
extract of the letter which I had the honor to address to him on this 
delicate subject, it is my duty to reproduce here the entire text of our 

Here is the translation of the letter which the Governor-General 
wrote to me on March 30th, 1915: 

The Governor General, in Belgium. 

Brussels, March 30, 1915. 
Eminence : 

The foreign press, in addition to a series of other accusations, the greater part 
of which have already been proven false, launched this grave accusation that the 
German soldiers during their march through Belgium did not shrink from attacks 
on Belgian nuns. 

It is not necessary to point out that such facts, had they been recognized as true, 
would have been severely condemned by the General Government and the German 
Government. On the other hand, justice exacts that accusations recognized as 
inexact should be spurned as they deserve. 

I dare hope that the discovery of the real truth responds as well to the senti- 
ments of the Catholic Church as to the interests of Justice, and I believe I can 
depend on the support of Y. E. when I beg you to assist me in my efforts to 
elucidate these facts. 

The documents that Y. E. may communicate concerning alleged attacks on nuns 
will put me in a position to take such steps that the situation demands. 

Begging you to accept the expression of my highest consideration, I have the 
honor to be Your Eminence's very respectful, 

(S.) Baron von Bissing, 
To H. E. the Archbishop of Mechlin, at Mechlin. 

Here is our answer: 

Monsieur the Governor General, 

I received letter No. 1243 which your Excellency did me the honor to write 
to me, and I regret having been prevented answering sooner. 

Rumors are circulated in fact which are accepted by certain newspapers, and 
denied by others, regarding outrages which Belgian nuns suffered at the hands of 
German soldiers, and in accordance with Your Excellency, I protest against those 
who lightly, without proof, cast before the public or entertain such odious accusa- 

But when Your Excellency asks me to help to throw light on the truth or 
untruth of these imputations, I find myself compelled to oppose a preliminary 

Have the civil authorities the right to institute an inquiry regarding matters of 
so delicate a nature ? 

Whom will they questtion? 

The Confessor? The Physician? They are bound by professional secrecy. 

The Superiors? Do they always know the truth? 


And if they know it as a result of being told under the seal of a secret, have 
they the right to speak? 

Will they dare to question those interested? Would it not be cruel? Will they 
try to make witnesses speak, at the risk of exposing these victims of violence, 
already so unfortunate, to bear before the public the stain of their dishonor? 

For myself, I would not dare to submit anybody to an examination on so 
delicate a subject, and the disclosures which have been made to me spontaneously, 
or which will be made to me, in this regard, my conscience forbids me to make 
known to any one. 

Our duty, Excellency, is to prevent, by the means in our power that the public 
gratifies itself with these capricious and unhealthful allegations, and I will com- 
mend with all my heart the repression which justice will exercise on those, who, 
on account of prejudice or unpardonable thoughtlessness, invent or spread them. 
But I believe that we cannot go any further without encroaching on the rights of 
conscience and exposing ourselves to violate the liberty of private conscience. 

Accept, Monsieur le Gouverneur-General, the renewed assurance of my very 
high consideration. 

(S.) D. J. Card. Mercier, Archbishop of Mechlin. 

To His Excellency, Monsieur le Baron, von Bissing, Governor General, Brussels. 


We know and we affirm that the German army gave itself up in 
Belgium in a hundred different quarters, to pillage, to incendiarisrn, and 
imprisonments, and to massacres, and sacrileges, contrary to all justice 
and all human sentiment. 


Tamines, Surice, Spontin, Namur, Ethe Gomery, Latour, Aische-en-Refail, AUe, 
Arsimont, Auvelais, Bounine, Bourseigne-Neuve, Bouge, Daussois, Dourbes, Erme- 
ton-sur-Biert, Evrehailles, Felenne, Fosses, Franchimont, Franc Waret, Frasne, 
Gedinne, Gelbressee, Hansinelle, Hanzinne, Hautbois, Hastiere, Hermeton-sur- 
Meuse, Hingeon, Houdremont, Jemeppe-sur-Sambre, Lisogne, Louette St-Pierre, 
Mariembourg, Mettet, Monceau, Morville, Onhaye, Oret, Petigny, Romedenne. 
Somme-Leuze, Somzee, Stave, Temploux, Villers-en-Fagne, Wartet, Waulsort, 
Willerzie, Yvoir, Anloy, Assenois, Glaumont, Baranzy, Betrix, Briscol, Etalle, 
Framont, Frenes-Opont, Freylange, Glaireuse, Hamipre, Herbeumont, Izel, 
Jehouville, Maissin, Manhay, Musson, Mussy-la-Ville, Neufchateau, Pin, St. Leger, 
etc., etc. 

Thibessart, Biesme, Porcheresse, Graide, Nothomb, Rulles, Rosiere-la-Grande, 
Bovigny, Gouvy, Champion, Jamoigne, Silenrieux, Les Bulles, Tintigny, Ansart 
Rossignol, Sorinne, Bievre, Beheme, Leglise, Laneffe, Frenois, Villers-devant-Oryal, 
Couvin, Houdemont, Chiny, Anthee, Ychippe, Conneux Aye, Evelette, Florenville, 
Hollogne, Le Roux, Leuze, Marche, St. Marie, Ste.-Vincent. 

Andenne Dinant. 

Battice, Herve, Vise, Mouland, Hermee, Allambray, Louvignee, Lince, Poulsart, 

Sommague, Pecher, Melin, Julimont, Barchon, Lummen, Heulen, Geseele, 


Haakendover, Autgaerden, Grimde, Hougaerde, Cumptich, Hauthem, Ste. Mar- 
guerite Vissenaeken, Bunsbeek, Lubbeek, St. Bernard, Wever, Attenrode, Cappellen 
(.Glabb'eek), Cortryck-Dutsel, Glabbeek, Pellenberg, Neerlinter, Budingen, Heelen- 
bosch Orsmael-Gussenhoven, Corbeek-Ioo, Lovenjoul, Roosbeek, Schaffen, Moleln- 
stede, Wersbeek, Aerschot, Rillaer, Gelrode, Wesemael, Hersselt, Rethy, Haecht, 
Rotselaer Wackerzeel, Werchter, Tremeloo, Thildonck, Wespelaer,Boortmeerbeeck, 
Rymenam, Hever, Louvain, Heverle, Herent, Berg, Campenhout, Bueken, Neder- 
ockerzeel, Cortenberg, Delle, Boisschot, Goor, Heyst-op-den-Berg, Beersel, Putte, 
Schrieck, Malines, Bonheyden, Wavre-Notre-Dame, Wavre Ste. Catherme, Wael- 


hem, Leest, Hombeek, Sempst, Laer, Hofstade, Muysen, Schiplaeken, Koningshoyckt, 
Kessel, Lierre, Duffel, Blaesvelt, Perck, Peuthy, Hauthem, Elewijt, Weerde, Eppeg- 
hem, Pont-Brule, Grimbergen, Londerzeel, Meysse, Humbeek, Nieuwenrode, Beyg- 
hem, Wolverthem, Cappelle-au-Bois, Linsmeau, Wavre, Mousty. 

Saint-Gilles, Lebbeke, Termonde. 



Germany signed the Convention of The Hague. 

Already the first German Governor General, M. le Baron von der 
Goltz, invoked the Convention of The Hague in a decree published by 
him November 12, 1914. 

The second German Governor General, Baron von Bissing, in a 
solemn proclamation published July 18th, 1915, declared himself 
"HIS MAJESTY THE GERMAN EMPEROR, after the occupation 
of the Kingdom of Belgium by our victorious troops confided to me the 
administration of the country, and CHARGED ME TO FULFIL THE 

This is the law. 

Here are the facts: 


Article 50 of the Convention stipulates : "No collective penalty, 
pecuniary or other, can be pronounced against the inhabitants, on account 
of individual facts, of which they cannot be considered as jointly 

Now, the history of the occupation comprises three periods: that of 
the invasion, those over which presided successively, Baron von der Goltz 
and Baron von Bissing, 

DURING THE PERIOD OF INVASION, the collective penalty 
was applied systematically and under all forms. Proofs of this asser- 
tion abound. Here is one in itself sufficient: 

Accordingly as the invasion gained ground the Commander in Chief 
of the army had posted up in three languages, on red paper, a procla- 
mation which read : 

Villages where acts of hostility will be committed by the inhabitants 
against our troops, WILL BE BURNED. 

WILL BE HELD RESPONSIBLE for all destruction of routes, 
railroads, bridges, etc. . . . THE VILLAGES IN THE NEIGHBOR- 
HOOD of the points of destruction. 

The penalties mentioned above will be executed with severity and 
RESPONSIBLE. Hostages will be taken in numbers. The heaviest 
war tax will be imposed. 

GOLTZ, a proclamation signed by the hand of the Governor General, 


and promulgated the 2nd of September, 1914, in the occupied territory, 
said expressly: "It is the hard necessity of war that the penalties for 
hostile acts affect, BESIDES THE GUILTY ONES, also THE 

Consequently, the collective penalties were applied without restriction. 

Thus, a typical example, the City of Brussels was condemned to pay 
5 millions as fine, because one of its policemen, unknown to the Com- 
munal administration, omitted to pay deference to an official of the 
German civil government. 

A notice signed Baron von der Goltz, posted up the 7th of 
October, 1914, applies the collective penalty to the family. It says: 
"The Belgian Government sent to militiamen of different classes, orders 
to rejoin the army. . . . All who receive these orders are strictly for- 
bidden to obey them. ... IN CASE OF INFRINGEMENT THE 
VON BISSING, that is to say, from the third of December, 1914, the 
collective PUNISHMENTS, in violation of Article 50, were continuous. 
Here are some samples : 

The 23rd of September, 1914, a notice posted up in Brussels read : 
"If the graves of fallen soldiers are damaged or violated, not only will 
the one who committed the deed be punished, but THE TOWN WILL 

A notice from the Governor General, dated January 26, 1915, makes 
a Belgian, eligible for military service, of from 16 to 40 years of age, 
passes into Holland. 

And in fact under the most trifling pretext, heavy fines are imposed 
on the townships : the township of Puers has to pay a fine of three 
thousand marks because the telegraph wire was broken, although it was 
established after inquiry that usage had caused it to break. 

Mechlin, an industrial city, without resources, sees itself obliged to 
pay a fine of twenty thousand marks because the Burgomaster did not 
inform the military authorities of a trip that the Cardinal, who had been 
deprived of his automobile, was obliged to make on foot. 


According to article 52 of the Convention, requisitions in kind and 
services cannot be demanded from the communes or from the inhabitants 
except on three conditions : 

On condition that they do not comprise for the inhabitants the obli- 
gation to take part in operations of war against their country. 

On condition that they only concern the needs of the occupying army. 

On condition that they are in accordance with the resources of those 
of whom they are asked. 

It is interesting to note that Article 23 contains a closing item which 
was proposed to the second Congress of The Hague in 1907 by the 
German delegation; here it is: It is forbidden for a belligerent to force 


the people of the other side to take part in operations of war directed 
against their country. 

1. DURING THE INVASION, Belgian civilians, in numberless 
places, were forced to take part in war operations against their own 
country, at Termonde, at Lebbeke, at Dinant, and elsewhere; in many 
REGIMENTS or to form a curtain in front of them. 

At Liege and at Namur, civilians were forced to dig trenches and 
were employed to repair fortifications. The regime of hostages reigned 
frantically. The proclamation of the 4th of August cited above said it 

An official proclamation posted up in Liege in the first days of 
August, read : 

"All aggressions committed against the German troops by others than 
soldiers in uniform, expose not only him who renders himself guilty 
to be immediately executed, but will also cause the most violent reprisals 
against all the inhabitants, and especially against the people of Liege who 
are held as HOSTAGES in the citadel of Liege by the Commander of 
the German troops." 

These hostages are Mgr. Rutten, Bishop of Liege; Mr. Klever, 
Burgomaster of Liege ; the senators, representatives, permanent deputies,, 
aldermen of Liege. 

VON DER GOLTZ, the requisitions of service practised during the 
month of August, were continued under all forms : digging of trenches, 
work on the fortifications, carting, work on the roads, on the bridges, on 
the railroads, etc. 

A decree of the Governor-General appeared the 19th of November, 
saying: "Will be punished with imprisonment — of which the decree 
does not even give the duration : it is arbitrary without reserve — no 
matter who will attempt to prevent by force, by threats, by persuasion, 
or by other means, the execution of a work destined to the German 
authorities, persons disposed to furnish this work or contractors charged 
by the German authorities with the execution of this work." 

As regards THE REGIME OF HOSTAGES, it was carried out in 
all its rigor. 

A monstrous specimen of arbitrary cruelty is the proclamation pla- 
carded in the communes of Beyne-Heusay, Grivegnee, Bois de Breux, by 
Major Dieckmann, September 8th, 1914. Here is an extract: 

"From the 7th of September, I will permit the people of the aforesaid 
communes to go into their homes. To assure against abuse of this per- 
mission, the burgomasters of Beyne-Heusay and of Grivegnee must make 
lists immediately of people who will be held as 'hostages' in the fort of 

"The lives of these hostages depend upon the peaceable behavior of 
the inhabitants of these communes." 

I will designate the people who are to be held from noon one day to 
noon the next as hostages. If the substitution is not made in time, the 


hostage will have to remain for another 24 hours in the fort. After the 
expiration of these extra 24 hours, "the hostage is subject to the death 
penalty if the substitution is not made." As hostages, the priests and 
the burgomasters and the other members of the administration are placed 
in the first line. 

BISSING, the violations of Article 52 were flagrant. Things that took 
place in the railroad shops at Luttre and at Mechlin, as well as in many 
towns of West Flanders, are revolting. Let us judge for ourselves: 

At the Arsenal of Luttre the German official had posted up on March 
23, 1915, a notice ordering the taking up again of work. The 21st of 
April they demanded 200 workmen. The 27th of April soldiers went 
to summon workmen at their homes and conducted them to the arsenal. 
In case the workman was absent, a member of the family was arrested. 
Meanwhile the workmen remained firm in their refusal to work, "because 
they did not want to co-operate in acts of war against their country." 

The 30th of April the workmen summoned were no longer released, 
but locked up in railroad trains. 

The 4th of May 24 workmen imprisoned at Nivelles, were judged at 
Mons by a counsel of war, "under the accusation of being a member of 
a secret society the aim of which was to thwart the carrying out of Ger- 
man military measures." They are condemned to imprisonment. 

The 8th of May, 1915, 49 workmen are locked up in a freight car and 
sent to Germany. 

May 14th, 45 workmen are deported to Germany. 

May 18th a new proclamation announces that the prisoners will receive 
only dry bread and water; hot food only every four days. May 22nd 
"three cars carrying 104 workmen are sent towards Charleroi." 

Notwithstanding everything the patriotic dignity of the workmen 
finally triumphed over the pressure exercised over them. 

It was the same at MECHLIN, where by diverse means of intimi- 
dation the German authorities tried to compel the workmen at the rail- 
road shops to work on material for the railroad, just as if it were not 
evident that this material would sooner or later become war material. 

May 30, 1915, the Governor-General published "that he would be 
obliged to punish the city of Mechlin and its environs in stopping all 
business traffic if on Wednesday, June 2nd, at 10 o'clock in the morning, 
500 workmen of the arsenal did not present themselves for work." 

On Wednesday, June 2nd, not one workman presented himself for 
work. Hence a decree forbidding any vehicles to pass within a radius 
of many kilometres around the city. 

It was at this time that the Cardinal of Mechlin made his trip on 
foot from Mechlin to Eppeghem; a trip which caused the city of Mechlin 
to pay a fine of 20,000 marks. 

Many workmen were taken by force and held during two or three 
days at the shops. 

The suspension of traffic lasted ten days. 

The Commune of SWEVEGHEM (West Flanders) was punished 
in June, 1915, because the 350 workmen of the factory — private factory 


of Mr, Bekaert — refused to manufacture barbed wire for the German 

Here is a bill which was posted up in July-August, 1915, at MENIN; 
Order: Dating from to-day the city can no longer give help — no matter 
of what kind, even to families, women and children — except only to those 
workmen who work "regularly" on "military jobs" and other prescribed 
work. All other workmen and their families can no longer be helped 
in any way. 

Is this not too odious? 

Similar measures were taken in October, 1915, at Harlebeke-Coutrai, 
at Bisseghem, at Lokeren, at Mons. At Harlebeke 29 inhabitants were 
deported to Germany. At Mons, at the factory of Mr. Lenoir, the 
directors, foremen, and 81 workmen were condemned to imprisonment 
for refusing to work for the German army: Mr. Lenoir got 5 years' 
imprisonment, 5 directors got one year, six foremen got 6 months ; 81 
workmen 8 weeks. 

The General Government had recourse also to "indirect" means of 
coercion. It took possession of the Red Cross of Belgium, confiscated 
their funds, and arbitrarily changed its purpose. It tried to get posses- 
sion of the public charity organization and to exercise its control on the 
National Committee of Help and Food. If we cited in extenso the decree 
of the Governor-General of May 14th, 1915, "concerning the measures 
destined to assure the execution of works of public interest," and that 
of August 15, 1915, "concerning the strikers who through laziness avoid 
work," we would see by what detours the occupying power tried to reach 
at the same time the employers and the workmen. 

But is is in the zone of the "etapes" that disregard for the Convention 
of the Hague was pushed to the extreme. 

The 12th of Oct., 1915, the Official Bulletin of decrees for the region 
of the "Etapes," published a decree, of which below are the salient 
passages : 

Art. 1. He who without motive refuses to undertake or to continue 
a work corresponding to his profession and in the execution of which 
"the military administration is interested," work ordained by one or 
several military commanders, will be punished by reformatory imprison- 
ment for one year at the most. He may also be deported to Germany. 

"The fact that Belgian laws to the contrary or even international 
conventions are invoked can in no case justify a refusal to work." 

Regarding the legitimacy of the work exacted, the "Military Com- 
mander alone has the right to take a decision." 

Art. 2. Is liable to imprisonment of 5 years at the most, he who by 
coercion, menace, persuasion or other means, tries to influence another 
person to the refusal designated in Art. 1. 

Art. 3. He who knowingly by "help or other means" favors the 
punishable refusal to work, will be liable to a fine up to 10,000 mks., he 
may also be condemned to one year's imprisonment. 

If communes or associations render themselves culpable of suv,n a 
transgression, the authorities will be punished in consequence. 

Art. 4. Independently of the penalties which Articles 1 and 3 
threaten, the German authorities can in case of need impose on the com- 


munes, where without motive the execution of a work has been refused, 
a contribution or other coercive poHce measures. 
The present decree goes at once into force. 
Ghent, the 12th of October, 1915. 

The Etappeinspecteur. 
Von Uuger, general leutnant. 

The arbitrary injustice of this decree surpasses all that one could 
imagine. Forced labor, collective penalties, indeterminate sanctions: 
everything is there. It is slavery, neither more nor less. 


Let us confine ourselves to point out in a few words two taxes con- 
trary to articles 48, 49, 51 and 52 of the Convention of the Hague. 

THE FIRST was decreed by an order of Governor-General Baron 
von Bissing, on Jan. 16th, 1915. It consists in taxing the absent people 
with an additional and extraordinary tax fixed at ten times the total of 
their personal taxes. This tax is contained in none of the categories of 
existing taxes, it only affects one class of citizens who lawfully made use 
of their right to move their residence previously to the occupation of 
the country. It is consequently contrary to articles 48 and 51 of the 

The SECOND violation of the Convention is the famous Contribution 
of 480 millions imposed on the nine provinces the 10th of December, 

The essential condition of the legitimacy of a tax of this kind, accord- 
ing to the Convention of the Hague, is that it be IN KEEPING WITH 

Now, in December, 1914, Belgium was devastated ; war contributions 
imposed on the cities, innumerable requisitions in kind, had exhausted it ; 
the greater part of the factories were stopped, and from those who still 
worked they did not hesitate to demand, contrary to all law, the raw 

It is on this impoverished Belgium, living on foreign charity, that a 
tax of about a half million was imposed. 

The decree of Dec. 10th, 1914, read: A war contribution of 40 
million francs, to be paid monthly during the period of one year, is 
imposed on the Belgian population. 

This "period of one year has now elapsed" ! 

Now, at this writing, the occupying power pretends to replace "the 
period of one year" by "the entire duration of the war." 

Poor little Belgium! What has she done to the rich and powerful 
Germany, her neighbor, to be thus trodden down, tortured, calumniated, 
bled, oppressed by her? 

If we had to furnish a complete statement of the decrees and acts 
by which the Occupying Power to our knowledge has gone contrary to 
the Convention of the Hague, we would have still to cite "the abuse of 
requisitions in kind," contrary to Article 52; "the seizure" of funds be- 
longing to private societies, the requisition of railroad rails for a distance 
of hundreds of kilometres; the seizure of arms placed by the order of 


the Belgian Government in communal houses, an abuse contrary to 
"Article 53"; THE REFUSAL to recognize, especially in matters of 
penal law LAWS IN FORCE IN THE COUNTRY, contrary to 
"Article 43." 

But we cannot tell everything here, nor cite everything. 

If, however, the persons to whom our correspondence is destined 
wish proof of the accusations which are only indicated in this final 
paragraph, we will furnish it immediately. There is no allegation either 
in our Letter or in these four annexes of which we do not possess the 
proof in our files. 



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